“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens
The Brain Trust and I are officially graduates of our fellowship program after three long years. We started seven members deep that summer of 2010 and the last of us limped jubilantly across the finish line last week.
I have spent nearly a quarter of my life in surgical training. Though one could argue that I have spent the majority of my life moving towards this day, it is an odd anticlimax. To an individual finishing 8 years of surgical training, it feels like the entire world should stop, if only for a moment, to recognize.
The honest truth of it is; however, July 1 was a day like any other. And the cycle of medical training life turned as always.
The three Brain Trust members that remained from our class had a final farewell lunch before we all headed home for the final push on papers and packing. The talk was the usual stuff: war stories about recent cases, what’s the next big thing in surgical research, cackling at the fate of the “fresh meat” new fellows.
While we were in the thick fellowship, all we wanted was for the days to pass quickly to get to that future as an attending where the grass is clearly greener. Sitting with my co-fellows at lunch, I realized that being an attending is going to be great, but I will always have nostalgia for these very special 3 years in the safe nest of surgical fellowship.
The best part of fellowship is the fellows. We have been in the trenches together. We learned and grew professionally and personally with very little risk to our careers or ourselves. We spent hours in the fellows office discussing hard cases and doing impressions of our attendings. We singlehandedly kept our local Starbucks in business. In the same vein, we singlehandedly kept our local bar in business. We wrote papers together. We covered each other when needed—both in the clinic/OR and emotionally. When I look back on it, it’s hard to remember the nights of incessant pages and attending tantrums. It’s easy to remember the OR cases, happy hours, coffee breaks, lunches, and hours in the fellows office.
Though we discussed the usual things at our last lunch, talk turned to new things as well. We each described the new homes we are renting, plans for cross-country moves, weddings, and new lives. A couple of the Brain Trust members have recently gotten engaged. Even I, the perpetual SFS, have found myself in love with a wonderful man that I randomly and serendipitously met at a college alumni mixer in December.
As I recounted in a previous post, Thor said that during fellowship, “Your life is on hiatus.” For the Brain Trust, the hiatus is over. In many places, graduation is called “commencement.” We’re commencing the start of our lives.